A few months ago my wife Elisabeth joined me in retirement. I retired from lecturing Mathematics almost five years ago and Elisabeth from primary school teaching last Easter. With the Falls of Clyde, New Lanark fairly close, we decided to volunteer our help with our local Scottish Wildlife Trust reserve. The website helped us through some of the formalities and Lyndsay at the Falls of Clyde sorted out the rest.
I’m not sure either of us knew fully what to expect. Our first task was to help at one of the Halloween events for youngsters organised by Lyndsay. Here the children enrolled at a witches and wizards academy and had a great time making magic wands and flying broomsticks from woodland materials, creating “potions” and pumpkin lanterns, and listening to Lyndsay’s storytelling with a warming mug of hot chocolate. We could only manage to attend one of these parties, but Lyndsay and others were hard at work all weekend with the result that Lanark and district now have a much higher proportion of environmentally friendly witches and wizards than anywhere else in the country!
In November we were involved with the Mammal Detectives Roadshow. Organised jointly by Lyndsay from the Scottish Wildlife Trust and Elaine from Scottish Badgers, the roadshow went to five South Lanarkshire primary schools. At each school, groups of children from P1 to P7 took part in hands on activities featuring three local animals. Bats were covered in Lyndsay’s session. Did you know one tiny bat can eat 3000 midges in a night? The children loved a bit of role play being farmers, builders and rangers all trying to save our local bats.
Elaine concentrated on badgers, with a CSI type activity looking at how to spot their signs. The highlight was always a trail camera footage of badgers and their cubs playing around their sett entrance.. Elisabeth and I dealt with owls, in particular the different ones present in Scotland, what they look and sound like, what and how they eat, and one of the signs of the presence of owls, namely owl pellets. The rangers at the Falls of Clyde had previously collected owl pellets and the children were able to examine these and search through broken up owl pellets separating the bones, teeth and fur of the former little mammals (this connection to mammals being the reason why owls featured in a Mammal Detectives Roadshow!). The children’s reactions to this investigation varied from “yeuch!” to “wow!” and everything in between. Across the five schools over 600 children participated in the events. It’s difficult to quantify the long term impact on the children, but they certainly had lots of fun at the time and I’m sure for many the experience will endure.
From a new volunteer’s perspective, speaking for both myself and Elisabeth, our participation with the Scottish Wildlife Trust so far has been a great experience. We hope that we are making a positive contribution, we have certainly enjoyed meeting new people and we continue to learn, improve and share our own knowledge of nature.
Derek, Volunteer, Falls of Clyde.